11 Tips For Winterizing A Vacant Home

Eric Stewart November 19, 2015

For a home to remain in good shape throughout the winter, it needs regular care and attention. Vacant houses are particularly prone to damage during extended periods of freezing temperatures. By winterizing a vacant house, you are protecting your investment so it can be sold, rented or otherwise inhabited at a moment’s notice without worry of unforeseen issues.

A recent article from RISMedia, a leading provider of residential real estate news and information, highlights 11 tips to prepare a vacant home for winter before freezing temperatures and other risks arrive.

1.   Bring in a Plumber

Hiring a professional plumber to winterize the pipes and water system in the home is extremely important. Freezing pipes can burst, which can lead to extensive water damage and significantly impact the value of the home. The plumber can examine the entire system, inside and out, and then prepare it for freezing temperatures. The plumber will drain all areas where water is stored and will use an air compressor to expel water from the pipes throughout the house. With the water removed, you do not have to keep the house heated to prevent freezing. The pipes are protected and you save money in utility costs.

2.   Drain Outdoor Garden Hoses

Water hoses must be disconnected from the home and drained of water to prevent damage to both the hoses and the spigots where they attach to the house. Left undrained, the water inside will freeze and burst not only the hose, but often the spigot as well. If winter watering must be done to keep landscape plants alive, make sure the person who does the watering drains the hoses and disconnects them from the house after each use.

3.   Close Up All Openings to the House

To prevent animals and insects from entering the home for shelter, you will need to close up all openings throughout the house. These include dryer vents and the chimney.

4.   Have the Gutters Cleaned and Repaired if Necessary

Gutters must be free of debris and attached properly to the house to funnel water away from the roof, siding, and foundation. If enough water collects and a freeze hits, the weight of the ice can pull the gutter away from the home, damaging the siding and leading to potential ice hazards where water collects at the base of the house. Have the gutters cleaned periodically until all leaves have dropped from the trees, and make sure they are in good repair.

5.   Remove Anything Touching the Side of the House, Such as Leaves and Firewood

Water and insects can accumulate in firewood and debris, causing damage to the siding and leading to potential infestations. Keeping everything away from the house creates a safe barrier and prevents water damage. This includes shrubbery and other landscaping. Keep a minimum of a couple of feet to allow the home to breath.

6.   Have Trees Trimmed over the Home

Remove any tree branches that may touch the house or hang too closely. Tree branches increase the leaves that accumulate in the gutter and can also break and fall on the house in a snow or ice storm. If you are negligent about keeping branches over your home it could result in the insurance company denying your claim.

7.   Use Moth Balls to Keep Insects out of the House

Moth balls may smell unpleasant, but they are effective at keeping insects away. Use them anywhere you think insects may be a problem.

8.   Talk to the Gas Company about Disconnecting the Gas Supply

A gas explosion can cause even more damage than frozen pipes. Let the gas company know the home is vacant and ask them to disconnect the gas supply to the home. Obviously, if you are not living in the home this becomes important because if a gas leak were to form it would be too late for you to do anything about it. This is one of the major reasons why nearly all bank owned properties get winterized.

9.   Make the Home Appear Occupied at a Glance

It is better for potential buyers and discouraging to unwanted visitors if the home appears occupied. You can set up lights on timers and have the landscaping tended to periodically to keep things looking nice. If snow is an issue you can also have the driveway cleared. Keep in mind that if your home is on the market you are going to need to get it un-winterized with fairly short notice when the buyer schedules a home inspection. Buyers will want to be able to check the heating and plumbing systems and will not be able to do so if the home is winterized.

10. Hire a Landscaper to Perform a Fall Cleanup 

As the weather gets colder, plants will die and you will be left with a disheveled looking yard and landscape. It is beneficial for the sales process if you have someone come in and clean up around the home after the first freeze or two, when most of the vegetation has died off. The landscaper can cut back any dead growth, rake up leaves, and prepare plants for the winter.

11. Check on the Home Periodically

An unoccupied home, even when the lights come on and the driveway is plowed, can be appealing to burglars and to squatters. It can also be a destination for kids in the neighborhood to come hang out for fun. In addition, though you should certainly take precautions by winterizing the home, unexpected situations can still occur. A quick periodic check-in for as long as the house is empty (even during warmer weather) can mean the difference between a problem being caught early enough to be fixed before any damage is done, and a problem that’s left unchecked long enough to cause hundreds or even thousands of dollars in damage.

If you have additional questions on winterizing your vacant home or selling your home during the winter months, contact the real estate professionals at the Eric Stewart Group. Our dedicated team has over 30 years of experience selling homes for top dollar. 




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